FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the highlights of Bill Belichick's Friday news conference came when he was asked about Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey.
The respect that Belichick and the Patriots have for Bailey, the 14-year veteran, was evident.
"I would start by just saying with Champ, to me he’s one of the few corners in the league that really can match up against anybody," Belichick said. "He matches up against the Andre Johnsons of the world, the big, strong, physical, fast guys. Then he’ll match up against quick, real good route running, quick receivers, guys like that too. [It] doesn’t really make any difference. You can watch him match up against whoever they want to put him on, whether it’s Mike Wallace or whether it’s Calvin Johnson, through the years; I’m not just talking about this year. At times, he’s been on tight ends, like when he would be on [Tony] Gonzalez back in the day and things like that.
"So, I think he’s really capable of being physical and standing in there and banging with the big guys. He’s got enough quickness and length with the little guys to match their quickness and give them a problem and stay with them, or if he gets his hands on them and jams them, he can destroy the route right off the bat. He’s a very instinctive player, so he has a good sense of what the guy is trying to do and what their tendencies are and things like that. He’s on a lot of routes just because he’s experienced and he’s smart.
"I think he can cover, I’d say there aren’t too many corners in the league – it would be hard to think of who the next one would be – who like him could match up as well against any type of receiver. Some guys do well against some type of players and have a little trouble with another type of guy. It looks like to me like he does a pretty good job against anybody – on whoever the other team’s best receiver is, if they want to match him up, which sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. They don’t always match him but at times they will.
"He can match them or not match them or he can take whoever comes out and do a pretty good job with it. Man, zone, he’s a good Cover-2 corner, he’s a good one-on-one corner, he’s a good zone corner, tackles well, he’s a good run-force corner, he’s pretty much a prototype corner in terms of having a full set of skills, does everything well, plays the ball well, very good hands, but he’s a strong tackler and a good run-force player too."
A few other soundbites from Belichick:
On whether tight end Daniel Fells is a 'pro's pro.' "He is, yeah. Absolutely yeah. Dan knows what to do, he works hard, he’s an experienced player, very professional in his attitude, his preparation, his film study and all of that. No question, he’s very good on all those things."
On whether the absences of tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in practice has presented Fells with a good opportunity. "It has. Daniel and Mike [Hoomanawanui] have both gotten some of those opportunities when those guys haven’t had all the practice time. It has been good. I think it’s helped them just in the overall communication. Mike wasn’t with us in training camp; Daniel was with us but didn’t participate in training camp much until the last couple weeks there when he came off PUP. So, just being able to get out there, hear the calls, get the timing with the quarterbacks and the other receivers in the passing game or the tackles and tight ends in the running game on combination blocks, double team blocks, things like that, how to recognize the linebacker-corner or linebacker-safety relationship on perimeter plays, things like that. It all helps, absolutely. Those guys have gotten a lot of snaps and I think it’s definitely helped their execution and their timing, their understanding of the plays and working with different [players]. Those guys have to work with a lot of different people, they have to work with tackles, they have to work with the other tight ends, they have to work with the receivers in pass protection and in the running game. That’s been a good opportunity for them."
On whether defensive looks that the Broncos feature that include no players in a three point stance are designed to confuse opposing quarterbacks in identifying the "Mike" linebacker. "Yeah, well again, they have some versatile guys that sometimes they rush, sometimes they cover. They like to bring a lot of defensive backs when they get into their six and seven defensive back defenses so they’re really like linebackers but they’re defensive backs, but it just becomes an identification thing for the offense: Who is a DB, who is a linebacker, who has who, who is down? And so you potentially have 11 guys in coverage instead of just say seven, if it’s a traditional four-man line. Then your combinations of who has who and a lot of cases where you have on third down – a guard might have a ‘Mike’ to a nickel back or a back might have a linebacker to a safety or whatever it happens to be, then it just becomes like a who’s who game. They’ve done that and again, that’s one of the many things they do that creates problems for you preparation-wise, making sure you have that. They do it every week and that’s something you have to be ready for because you kind of know that sooner or later they’re going to give it to you and you have to have a way to handle [it] or just in your normal rules, go over how you’re going to cover."
His thoughts on 'Cleveland: 95," a production by NFL Films highlighting his coaching and personnel staffs with the Cleveland Browns in 1995 (which included current Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, amongst others). "As usual, NFL Films, I thought they did a good job. It was a lot of good people there, a lot of talented people that I had the privilege to work with and I learned a lot from. I think it captured things pretty accurately."